When the Lincoln Plaza Theater closed in January of 2018, it was like a body blow to the Upper West Side, an area that historically housed a huge community of arts lovers who were educated, sophisticated and open to a wide variety of cinema experiences.
It wasn’t as if there weren’t alternatives. Film at Lincoln Center is one of the best curated art houses in the country. AMC has two large multiplexes that, in addition to playing the latest Hollywood movies, also squeeze in the occasional Focus, Searchlight, A24 or Neon film. But, with the passing of the Lincoln Plaza Theater, a stalwart community institution was gone.
In the time since that closure, there have been some good and some bad developments. On the bad side, The Landmark on 57th Street also closed. While it was never going to fulfill the UWS neighborhood’s needs due to its incredibly inconvenient location, Landmark did attempt to play some of the smaller art films that couldn’t find a home elsewhere. I’ve heard that someone is taking over that theater, but I’m guessing it will end up mainly playing commercial Hollywood films. Continue reading “The Upper West Side Needs More Art Film Screens”
Bill Thompson, who passed away earlier this week, was a true mensch. I first met Bill in 1977, when we both worked at Cinema 5, and we remained friends over all these years. Through his long career, as Bill went back and forth between being a film buyer for various theaters, and a film salesperson for various distribution companies, he never lost his capacity to be one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. This, in spite of how vicious and competitive the indie film business can be. It’s hard to get across how special that quality was, and how much his presence in our world will be missed.
Bill was one of the stars of my film “Searching for Mr. Rugoff,” and here is an outtake where he tells us a little about his own origin story in the film business.
Last June, at the Walter Reade Theater in New York, family, friends and colleagues of Joan Micklin Silver got together to pay tribute to the inspirational and ceiling-smashing legacy of one of independent film’s true heroes. Somewhat belatedly, here is the memorial in its entirely for those of you who couldn’t be there.
When my film, Searching for Mr. Rugoff was released in the theaters, the most common feedback I got was how astounding it was that one company released so many of the definitive films from what, in retrospect, looks like a golden age of art films. I had so many requests for a list of the films that I included one in the press kit and provided it to anyone who asked.
It is with that in mind that I am so very pleased that the Criterion Channel is showing twenty Cinema 5 titles in conjunction with the exclusive premiere of my film. The series starts on September 12.
This collection of films might as well be a syllabus for anyone interested in non-Hollywood cinema from the ’60s and ’70s, a particularly ripe period of pushing the limits of what could be shown in commercial movie theaters. Many of the films were controversial in their day, and probably would be today. It took an off-kilter sensibility like Rugoff’s to see commercial potential in them, and many of them failed at the box office. But looking back after all these years, the collection seems downright inspired. Continue reading “Criterion Celebrates Fabled Distributor Cinema 5”
There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t read The New York Times. I fully admit to being one of those old-fashioned people who reads the news on paper; I flip through every page, skimming the articles, diving into whatever grabs my attention, and feeling like I’ve absorbed enough information to be up to date on our crazy world.
There also isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t get pissed off at The Times for one reason or another. The insistence on presenting “both sides” of every issue, to the point of false equivalencies, is a particular source of anger. (Let’s not forget that it was The Times that broke the story of “Hillary’s emails” and continued to hammer it all the way to November.)
However, all told, The Times does a better job than most daily newspapers of at least trying to get things right. And in an environment in which newspapers around the world are under severe threat of extinction, I find it heartening That they have found a way to keep the paper alive while deftly navigating new business models to support it.
That said, what brings me to write comes less from my personal and political perspectives as a reader than my professional perspective as someone who lives in the world of movie marketing; more specifically someone who has spent their life trying to get audiences to see less commercial fare in movie theaters. The Times has always played an important role in that effort, but unfortunately in recent years, changes have been made that have created great obstacles to that effort. Continue reading “Seven Ways The New York Times Could Help Save Theatrical Moviegoing and Its Own Bottom Line”
It’s been a long road. After five years in production and a nearly two-year pandemic delay in the theatrical release, my film “Searching for Mr. Rugoff” finally opened in theaters in over 40 cities this past August. The response has been beyond my wildest expectations, both the reviews, as well as all the wonderful notes I’ve been getting from audiences around the country and around the world. The most gratifying part has been the reception from younger audiences, who have no reason to relate to the film on a nostalgic level. Their response (thank you, Columbia students) gave me the confidence to complete the project, and ultimately to pursue as broad a release as possible.
Now comes the payoff. The film is now available for sale on DVD & Blu-ray, and for sale or rental on Amazon Prime Video, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu and Kino Now. So, gather around the biggest screen you have access to, and watch the movie that RogerEbert.com called “One of the top 10 documentaries of the year…a beautifully structured tale of movie love. “Searching for Mr. Rugoff” is both dramatic and enlightening, a moving document of an American life that has a bit of “Citizen Kane” to it.”
You can see all the information about it, as well as outtakes and other fun stuff at http://mrrugoff.com.
Upon hearing of the death of Irwin Young at the age of 94, I wrote a heartfelt remembrance of the man who played such an enormous role in the lives of so many independent filmmakers. It was originally published in Indiewire. I am reprinting it here it its entirety.
When prominent people die, obituaries often declare the end of an era. In the case of Irwin Young, who died this past Thursday at the age of 94, there’s an added poignancy to seeing his death through that lens, as we are living through a time when everything he stood for is under threat. Anyone who lived through the modern history of independent film can tell you: much of that history could not have happened without him. Continue reading “Irwin Young – Godfather of Independent Film”
Ten years ago, on what was then the 10th Anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, I felt compelled to write down my memories of that day, and the complicated family odyssey that followed. Anyone who was in New York on that day has stories to tell, and I wanted to make sure to preserve mine before the details became too fuzzy. I consulted my wife and a few other key participants to make sure I got things as accurate as possible, and wrote it all down. Now, here we are another 10 years later, and the story still conjures up so much emotion that I am sharing it again. Here is the story of our family odyssey…
At the Sundance premiere of Steve James’ film about Roger Ebert, “Life Itself,” I found myself sitting next to Barbara Kopple. Barbara and I have known each other for a long time, and I’m a huge fan of her work. When I worked at Cinema 5, I did co-op advertising for “Harlan County USA,” and many years later I worked with her to find the financing for her “Woodstock ’94” doc. Since both of us are New Yorkers, we see each other a lot at screenings and other industry events.
Before the Ebert film began, Barbara and I were chatting and the subject of Don Rugoff came up. Barbara told me a couple of stories about her experience with his distribution of “Harlan County,” and it was one of those moments where I wished I had brought a camera with me to capture them.
Later, when I finally decided I was making a film about Rugoff, Barbara was on my list of people to interview, but she was going through an extraordinarily busy period in her career, so it was near impossible to find a time to do it. I caught her off guard at an event and sprung my camera on her, so the interview was impromptu and rushed. It turned out, unbeknownst to me at the time, that the camera was acting up, so you’ll have to forgive a few moments of soft focus in this great outtake clip, in which Barbara talks about the early history of “Harlan County,” when she had no idea that it would become the sensation that it later became.
Sarah Kernochan is a screenwriter, director, author, songwriter, performer and two-time Oscar winning documentarian, and a friend. I saw her first doc “Marjoe” as a young cinephile, not realizing that years later, I would end up producing her first fiction feature as director, “All I Wanna Do.” In this outtake clip Sarah talks about why she thinks Don Rugoff, who distributed “Marjoe,” is a significant figure in the history of independent film.